Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Almost Became Radio Raheem

Yeah, you remember Radio Raheem.

Sad, sad story. The fact of the matter is that people are afraid of the anger of black men. Seriously afraid. Worse yet, many people like to act like there is no basis for such anger. I beg to differ. Anyway, when a Black man gets angry and the police are around, MANY police officers feel obligated to act with force. Being angry at a mistake (understatement) by the police force when being in your own home somehow merits your arrest? After presenting ID as a Harvard Professor and world-renown scholar? That's justifiable anger. Gates was arrested for that justifiable anger. He was well within his right to voice his objections in his home. Sgt. James Crowley conveniently moved him outside so that he could be charged with a public disturbance or disturbing the peace. Officials stepped in and said he had done what he was supposed to do. Why, then, were the charges dropped? Would they have been dropped without the media attention?

Here's Michael Eric Dyson and Kathleen Parker with their respective takes on the whole thing:

Here's mine. If the charges were dropped, it's most likely because there was no basis for them in the first place. Yet Crowley's bosses or colleagues don't seem to be willing to concede that fact despite the fact that Gates has been cleared. What else should I take that as instead of police officers sticking up for their own? I heard someone call into a radio station and say something to this effect: Many Black men are usually characterized as angry, immature, aggressive, and violent individuals by the media and many law enforcement officials (of any race) who have encountered them. What we do not hear about is the angry, immature, aggressive, and violent law enforcement officers who act out when they feel that their authority is challenged in any way. That's a lot of them. Not all of them, but a lot of them. I'm sorry. Remember Ryan Moats? The NFL Player that wanted to visit his sick and dying mother-in-law?

She died before he could get there because of his run-in with an insecure and slightly deranged police officer. Kinda reminds you of Abel Turner, Samuel L. Jackson's character from Lakeview Terrace, huh? So how do we fix the problem? I love the President. I also love the fact that he wants to bring Henry Gates and James Crowley together. I HATE beer. That's beside the point, which is that a one-on-one conversation will not fix the entire problem. Police officers, minority males, and the US Judical System are the only ones who can help bring about the kind of change needed in this highly tense relationship between Po-Pos and the Bros. Police have never really been punished for brutality. Amadou Diallou, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Rodney King, the list continues. They scarcely lose their jobs for this kind of crap - which means they need to offer an apology, and more importantly, a genuine and concerted effort to see all criminals as human beings no matter what color they are, how bad their English is, or how they are dressed. Let me stop right here. Gates is a Harvard professor. He speaks impeccable English and was dressed in a polo shirt and slacks. It is obvious that some people see Black and cannot see past it. Others see white in a uniform and can't see past that, either. I don't know if either of them saw past the racial implications of the situation.

Secondly, more minority men need to try not to escalate situations with police and let them do their jobs. Impeding them in any way only makes matters worse and leads to more charges. The police are in authority and have no problems reminding you by any means necessary.
Finally, if we had judges and jurors who would prosecute and punish law enforcement officials in accordance with their excessive force offenses and as a deterrent for others who may act in the same way, the problem may have been a lot smaller by now.
Why hasn't this happened already with the judges and jurors? Because of a simple truth probably most eloquently put in the movie/book, "A Time To Kill." Mississippi lawyer Jake Brigance, played by actor Matthew McConaughey, said "... the eyes of the law are human eyes - yours and mine - and until we can see each other as equals, justice is never going to be evenhanded."
It's a problem, ladies and gentlemen.

As far as the president saying that the officers acted stupidly? I certainly don't think he owed them any apology. I can't see too many white men being arrested in their own home after reports of a break-in that home and the presentation of valid ID. There were probably pictures of Gates on the walls, too. The President, being biracial (which in America = Black and should show how far we have to go in race relations, another story) knows all about racial profiling and prejudice and it seems that he spoke from a very personal knowledge or memory. Somebody needs to say it. Law enforcement officers spoke up for their own during the ordeal. Why shouldn't the President? The police organizations that responded with outrage at his comments need to do the same thing I say about my generation in response to criticism. Take it, change yourselves, and turn the legitimate criticism into a false statement as soon as possible. Instead, they are agitated at what he said instead of what they did. Be glad I'm not the president - yet. If anyone gets mad at me for calling them like I see them, I stand my ground, support my argument, and refuse to apologize as the title of this very blog might suggest. It's time for a national reconciliation. That can only come when both sides acknowledge wrongdoing from incidents in the past and pledge their efforts to correct the problem going forward.